With the advancement in medical sciences, average life span or life expectancy of human has also increased. According to the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) data of 2015, average life expectancy of Indian males is 66.9 years while that of females is 69.9 years and total life expectancy is 68.3.
Though this is good for any country, this has also increased loneliness among the elderly as they are left unattended in the later stage of their lives.
Loneliness in elders needs to be addressed before it takes a toll on them. It is a growing health concern as it affects them psychologically.
According to a study, 43 out of 100 elderly people in the country suffer psychological issues due to loneliness, while 45 per cent elderly feel that their family members no longer care for them.
With the changing lifestyle and priorities of today’s youths are also changing. The nuclear family has become a trend in our country with couples refraining from living in a joint family and taking the responsibility of their elderly parents. Reasons for this can be numerous.
Also, post retirement, seniors miss their daily routine and chit-chat with their work colleagues. Lack of communication with their loved ones or any other individual who can cheer them up, or with other people of their age makes them feel lonely.
Because of all these, our seniors are left in an environment where depression due to loneliness and financial restrictions make their lives miserable. Also as they age, there are more chances of them developing health problems restricting their movements. They can’t move around on their own and meet their peers and become socially active. All these make their life gloomy as they start feeling neglected and unwanted and this is where the problem starts - they go into depression!
There is an immediate need to address issues pertaining to older people and connect them and keep them engaged with the society through various activities and NGOs can play a crucial role in achieving this. Though many NGOs like HelpAge India, Dignity Foundation, Agewell Foundation, to name a few, are already working for elderlies in the society, the number is not enough considering the increasing number of seniors population.
The way the government has initiated many schemes for the youths, it is equally important to initiate such schemes for senior citizens so that they can spend later stages of their life with lesser worries economically. Financial restrictions can cause depression in older people living alone. To address this, the government should provide them with a medical cover so that they can get better medical assistance.
Adding elderly in to the mainstream is the need of the hour and families can play a crucial role in making them feel important by keeping regular contact with them, organising small get-together often to make them feel important, keeping them up-to-date with the technology by introducing them to the vast world of the Internet and making their social media profile. But it is equally important to make them aware of the dark side of social media so that they can be scrupulous and don’t fall prey to the vested interest.
Senior citizens are the assets of any society and we can learn a lot from their vast experiences and in turn, we can provide them with healthy and a secured life by understanding their needs in later stages of life. It is a kind of mutualistic relationship with a win-win situation for both!